The Senior Citizens movement in Rome started in August 1957 when Ava Dorfman had the foresight to bring together interested people to focus on the needs of the elderly. In November of that same year, a 10-member board, the Senior Citizens Association of Greater Rome, was formed with Mrs. Dorfman as is first president. Mrs. Dorfman served as President for 18 years and as volunteer director for 16 years. This Board is now known as the Senior Citizens Council of Rome NY Inc.
Ava took on the task of recruiting members by approaching industries for a list of retirees. She sent a letter to each retiree. Due to a lack of transportation, she secured three meeting places so the seniors could meet in their neighborhoods. These three clubs met weekly for several years, growing to over 100 members, verifying the need for community services for seniors. They elected their own Officers and were governed by their own by-laws.
The building was officially named in honor of Mrs. Dorfman on August 17, 1971. The Council had great difficulty in naming the building after a living person due to rules of the Housing and Urban Devolvement office. But with the help of Congressman Pirnie, Mayor Valentine and in particular the senior citizens, the permission was granted and the building became known as the Ava Dorfman Senior Citizens Civic Center for its founder. With a permanent Center now available for meetings five days a week, and some evenings, the educational, recreational and health needs of the ever growing population of elderly in our community were met. Health programs were provided such as glaucoma, hearing, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings. Speakers on many subjects of interest to the membership included physicians, attorneys and dieticians. Classes were formed in oil-painting, sewing, jewelry, ceramics, bridge classes, square dancing, social dancing, physical fitness, bunka, basket making, quilting, decoupage, and cooking for one..
In 1990-91, the Senior Citizens Council, searching for new ways to reach seniors, with physical impairment or who needed structured care, explored the concept of Adult Day Care. What would be needed to offer the program was a new building connected of the existing Center with a separate entrance, ramps, elevette and additional parking. On May 29, 1991, after much planning by the Council, a formal groundbreaking took place for a 4,400 square foot addition that would house a new Adult Day Care program. This construction was financed with $238, 000 from Rome’s Community Development Block Grant Program, a $30,000 Grant from the Utica Foundation, now known as the Community Foundation, and $36,000 from the Center’s building funds, established by members of the Center from various fund raising projects over the years. Once again, thank you to the Community Foundation for an additional grant for furnishings of the Adult Day Care Center and providing an elevette for this facility. One year to the day of groundbreaking, on May 29, 1992 with a new facility and a competent and well-trained staff in place the Ava Dorfman Adult Day Care Center opened.
As founder and first President of the Senior Citizen Council of Rome, Mrs. Dorfman has started something which has had a most beneficial effect in a long-neglected field of community responsibility. Little was being done about making the golden years of life more golden until attention was given to the needs of our Senior population, by an adopted citizen of our community.